Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Talking about University for Peace (UPeace)

Last September 5, I was invited by UPeace-The Hague to join its team to orient students of Leiden University College (LUC)-The Hague of the opportunity to study in the UN-mandated University for Peace in Costa Rica. The other invited panels for the LUC Career Fair 2012 were government institutions, private companies, and international non-government organizations (NGOs).

As an alumnus of UPeace, my 10-minute talk would dwell much on my experiences in UPeace-Costa Rica. That was what they expected, and this is what I gave them or something like this:

"UPeace did not happen to me in an instant. It did not come to me. I sought for it.

Before I give my UPeace story, let me tell a little story from my sister and mother. One time, my elder sister told my mother, "Mama, when I grow big, I want myself to be like you." My mother of course was happy to hear that. And then, my sister added, "Mama, when you grow small, I want you to be like me."

Well, you know kids. It is logical that my sister can be like my mother. But I, as a boy, can not apply the same logic. Oh, this is the Netherlands; things are possible here.

Anyway, from that little story, I learned two things. First, young as we are, we look for our models in this world. Something that can guide us while we grow up and live our lives. Our first model is our family. My sister probably saw something in my mother that she wants to be when she grows up. My mother, as many mothers are, is hardworking, caring, loving, and present to us. So the first that I learned is having a model.
Second thing I learned from the story is about something that we believe we have that can contribute to the achievement of something good and noble. When my sister told my mom, "I want you to be like me." She probably meant, "Look Ma, I am happy and energetic; if you were like me, you could do many things and could be with us longer."

Models: we know that we do not live in the world that we want. In our minds, we have a model of the world we want. In reality, we are quite far from our world model. Poverty, violence, injustices, conflicts, discrimination, exclusion, and many other unwanted occurrences abound in our midst. In other words, this is not the world we want.

You can stop from there, and move on with your lives, accepting the dismal realities with indifference. But others opt to do something. If you read a news that some people are deprived of their human rights because they are different and then you feel something, and then you say that is not right. If you see authorities (e.g. police) abusing their position and power to disperse a peaceful demonstration, and you feel something is not right. If you watch a TV news on famine, health crisis or violent conflicts, people are dying needlessly.  If you feel something, and you believe that these are not right, I tell you, you are not alone.

This is what I experienced when I arrived in Costa Rica for my MA studies. Imagine a place or a campus, where you put 160 people from 60 countries who feel and believe, the same like you but in varying degrees, that these injustices, poverty, discrimination, exclusion, conflicts, are not right, and they do not belong to this world, our world.

Remember our world model.

Imagine what would be the discussions look like. Imagine the energies and ideas pouring and flowing from these people.

I was only one, but UPeace connected me to these people who, like my sister, believe that things can be like or close to our model. Possibilities of what can be done are limitless.

And so the professors come in to ground our flying ideas. Professors who are top-notch in their fields, who have seen most of the world, who have tried what works and does not work in certain contexts. They present theoretical frameworks to explain phenomena that confound us. They also present best practices that have been done in certain areas. Aside from these, professors ask questions that animate our wills.

If my sister thought that others could be like her, she believes she has something or some things worthy to share to others. And my sister thought that she can be like her mother, her model.

Nothing is stopping us from believing that we can have our model in our lifetime. At least we can try. And UPeace is there to help us try with hope."

  And this is my UPeace story, just the beginning and still continuing.

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